All In With Chris Hayes, Monday, April 28th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Monday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
April 28, 2014
Guests: William Rhoden, Ben Jealous, Etan Thomas, Simon Ostrovsky, Daryl
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
The National Basketball Association is promising an announcement tomorrow
afternoon in its investigation into Donald Sterling, the owner of the NBA`s
Los Angeles Clippers. This after an audio recording was made public in
which a man, alleged to be Sterling, is heard saying some, well, really
jaw-droppingly racist stuff.
Since the audio was released Friday night, corporate sponsors have been
rushing to sever or suspend their ties with the team. And Donald
Sterling`s own public record has come under new scrutiny as a scandal
becomes a mounting crisis not just for the Clippers, but an existential
crisis for the entire league.
Reporters who cover professional basketball particularly in Los Angeles
already understood things about Donald Sterling. That thanks to this
weekend`s audio dump the rest of the country is now being introduced to.
DONALD STERLING: Yes, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo --
broadcast that you`re associating with black people. Do you have to?
HAYES (voice-over): Over the weekend, the world all got to know L.A.
Clippers owner Donald Sterling a little better.
Late Friday night, the gossip Web site, TMZ Sports, published audio of
someone purported to be Sterling talking to his then-girlfriend, V.
STERLING: You can sleep with them, you can bring them in, you can do
whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that and
not to bring them to my games.
HAYES: He told her not to bring black people to his games. NBC News has
not been able to confirm the authenticity of the recording. The Web site
Deadspin released an extended version of the exchange.
V. STIVIANO: Do you know that you have a whole team that`s black that
plays for you?
STERLING: Do I know? I support them and give them food and clothes and
cars and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them?
Do I know that I have -- who makes the game, do I make the game or do they
make the game?
HAYES: The statements quickly led to speculation about what action the NBA
and National Basketball Players Association would take before the Clippers
Sunday playoff game. The Clippers organization released a statement
saying, "Mr. Sterling is emphatic that what is reflected on that recording
is not consistent with or does it reflect his views, beliefs or feelings."
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan uploaded an all black photo to Instagram on
Saturday that was widely interpreted as a protest against Sterling.
Clippers star Chris Paul, acting in his role as head of the players
association, said they would be looking into next steps. The NBA said it
would be investigating the disturbing and offensive statements.
But as many close observers pointed out, Sterling had a history of alleged
racism, including a multimillion dollar payout obtained by the Department
of Justice to settle allegations he discriminated against African-Americans
in apartment complexes he owned. At the time, it was the largest such
payout in history, one that the NBA was certainly aware of.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t just blame Donald Sterling for this. This is a
guy they have kept around for three-plus decades. There`s been a pattern
of terrible behavior, and racism. Nobody is surprised that this happened.
HAYES: Charles Barkley and others agree, saying the NBA has to act.
CHARLES BARKLEY, FORMER NBA PLAYER: When you`re in a position of power and
you can take jobs and economic opportunity from people, that`s what crosses
the line. But we cannot have an NBA owner discriminating against a league
that -- we`re a black league.
SHAQUILLE O`NEAL, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I think the league needs to take a
very long, hard look on whether this guy should continue being an owner or
HAYES: Lakers star Kobe Bryant tweeted, "I couldn`t play for him."
The biggest name in the league, LeBron James, said Sterling would have to
LEBRON JAMES, NBA STAR: There`s no room for that in our game. We can`t
have that. We can`t have it from a player. We can`t have it from an
owner. We can`t have it from a fan, and so on and so on. It doesn`t
matter if you`re black, white, Hispanic or whatever the case may be.
HAYES: By Sunday, the controversy reached the other side of the world, the
president weighing in from Malaysia.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think I have to
interpret those statements for you. They kind of speak for themselves.
HAYES: That afternoon, all eyes were on the Clippers playoff game against
the Golden State Warriors.
DOC RIVERS, L.A. CLIPPERS HEAD COACH: There will be certain players that
be will be great and there will be certain players that have been thinking
about this all night and they can`t function.
HAYES: Magic Johnson, who is mentioned in the purported recording of
Sterling, said the 80-year-old billionaire shouldn`t even own a team.
MAGIC JOHNSON, FORMER NBA PLAYER: He shouldn`t own a team anymore. He
should stand up and say, I don`t want to own a team anymore.
HAYES: Donald Sterling did not attend the game, while his estranged wife
sat courtside. As the team walked out, they threw their warm-up jerseys at
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a unified statement from the Clipper players
wearing their warm-up shirts inside out so the word "Clippers" are not
across their chests.
HAYES: They went on to lose the game 118-97.
To some, their silent protest wasn`t strong enough.
In the meantime, the players association has demanded that Sterling be
banned from all playoff games. It`s now up to the NBA to act.
A published recording may be new, but allegations of racism against Donald
Sterling are very much not.
HAYES: Joining me now, Liam Rhoden, sports columnist for "The New York
Times" and author of "Forty Million Dollar Slaves."
And, Bill, I thought about your book and thought about that title and
thought Donald Sterling had read it and interpreted it as a proactive model
that he was sort of explicitly endorsing in that conversation that is
alleged to be him on the tape.
WILLIAM RHODEN, SPORTS COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Or maybe, Chris,
maybe he was testing it, you know.
You know, I`ve got a lot of comments about the book which back when I wrote
it, people were saying, oh, come on, guys are making $40 million, how can
they be slaves?
And the whole point of the book is about power, is that wealth doesn`t
always equate with power. You know, you have a league with a lot of well-
paid guys but the question is who pays you? If somebody can afford to pay
15 of you $10 million, how much money are they making?
And so, I think this is a very interesting point and a lot of things.
People wondering what are the players going to do? What can the players
Some people said the protest wasn`t enough. You know, there are a lot of
my colleagues who would like to see something more dramatic. You know,
like striking or burning the uniforms or banning. I personally think,
Chris, the players are kind of in a tough position.
RHODEN: They`re contractually obligated, but I do think that this is a
time for fans, consumers basically, to speak out. I mean if you embrace
this, you know, then go to the games. But if this really bothers you, you
know, much as -- then stay away. You know, that`s hard because people are
addicted to the spectacle of the NBA playoffs.
HAYES: There`s two things about Sterling, I thought, that are pretty
shocking. I mean, one is what the record has been and the fact that people
have turned the other way. The other is, here`s a guy who there`s a strong
empirical case is the worst owner in all of professional sports. I mean,
has the losingest record, is horrible at what he does.
And yet you want to talk about power, you want to talk about wealth, he`s
still in the club. The team is appreciated hugely and the question now is
like, how can everyone hold this guy to account? How did the NBA let this
go on so long?
RHODEN: Well, yes, I mean, how he got the franchise. But, you know, I`m
thinking because of what he just said, because he was so terrible, a lot of
the owners in the West wanted him to be there because he kept them from
being in last place. That`s like Alabama used to say thank God for
Mississippi, you know?
And, I think a lot of owners are please let there be Sterling because the
franchise was so cheap, so terribly run so as long as it was there, you
knew if you were Portland, the Lakers, you know, Seattle when they were out
there, well, we`re not going to be in last place because of the Clippers.
Now, the irony is that they`re really turning the corner. They really are,
because of Doc, because of Chris Paul, you know, Griffin, they really are
becoming a very viable franchise. So it`s --
HAYES: So then the question becomes does the league has it, as I
understand, in the constitution of the league, there is the power to take
the franchise away and there`s certainly the power to suspend him. I think
back to what happened to Marge Schott and her comments with the Cincinnati
Reds about Hitler and anti-Semitic comments and she was suspended for a
I mean, what do you anticipate this owners club is going to do to one of
RHODEN: Well, I think if in fact these comments are his, there are
actually two provisions. There are two provisions in the constitution.
One that allows the commissioner to step in when there`s not really a
penalty for an unprecedented act to act.
And another one governs an act of a non-player. You know, so I think that
if, in fact, this is true, and because there`s so much heat on Adam Silver,
poor Adam Silver, I think that at the very least, there`s going to be a
long suspension -- probably a ban from probably day-to-day operations.
But, you know, the question is how do you really hurt a billionaire? I
mean, what do you --
HAYES: Particularly if you make him sell a team that he bought for about
$17 million and is probably worth between $800 million and $1 billion now,
which also says something about power and wealth and how those two might or
might not be related.
William Rhoden from "The New York Times" -- thank you so much.
RHODEN: Thanks, Chris.
HAYES: Joining me now, Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP.
He`s now a partner at the Kapor Center for Social Impact.
All right. Ben, part of the subsidiary story in this is the fact that this
is a guy who`s got this heinous record, I will say this, a record that is
alleged to be heinous in a variety of court filings pertaining to civil
BEN JEALOUS, KAPOR CENTER FOR SOCIAL IMPACT: Sure.
HAYES: -- who was honored by the local chapter of the L.A. NAACP, who was
going to be honored again. And it wasn`t like people didn`t know this
I want to read you a column, Earl Farley Hutchison (ph) written back in
May, 2009, about the local chapter of the L.A. NAACP giving him an award
after this settlement, the largest settlement ever on fair housing
discrimination. NAACP air brushed this away, simply said Sterling has been
a gem in giving oodles of tickets away to needy inner city kids, ladling
out some cash to charities and sports camps for them. How any of these
ranks as take the lead, storm the barriers battle against racial injustice
is a mystery.
How did this happen, Ben?
JEALOUS: Look, there`s an investigation going on right now and it needs to
happen. And the association needs to make sure that this can`t happen in
the future. I mean, it`s -- you know, there are 1,200 different, if you
will, bodies throughout the NAACP who get to choose who gets, you know,
honored at the dinner. We`re active in 1,200 communities. How this
decision was made once, but twice, thoroughly I don`t understand.
HAYES: Yes, I mean, it`s leaving you speechless.
JEALOUS: Really, really, really.
And so, I think the association is doing ultimately what needs to be done.
They`re doing an investigation and they have to come out and figure out how
this cannot -- how to ensure this cannot happen again.
But what frustrates me, Chris, each time that one of these things happened
is that there seems to be an inverse relationship in the media between sort
of the number of people impacted by an act of racism and how much the
national media is willing to talk about it. I mean, the association sued
an entire city in Los Angeles County for housing discrimination two years
ago and it was like crickets from the national media. They just didn`t
want to talk about it.
You know, the president picks up our charge or now the association`s charge
to go after the persistent discrimination against long-term unemployed
people in this country who were disproportionately black and brown. We
don`t really talk about it.
The Troy Davis case, it took activists, and I was one of them, 15 years to
get the national media to focus on it.
HAYES: Yes. Or the case of this guy. I mean, here you have -- you have a
lawsuit alleging deeply heinous, malicious instances of racial
discrimination in which, again, a lawsuit that was settled for an
undisclosed amount in which it is alleged that he is directing his people
to bar black tenants, to harass black and Latino tenants out of buildings
that he is renting to, in the case of an elderly woman who was half
paralyzed, not answering her calls for repairs in a flooded apartment.
I mean, deeply heinous allegations and that got 1/1,000th of the coverage
that this taped conversation will get.
JEALOUS: That`s absolutely right and the president of the NAACP came out
and said in the media that she suspects that money was a factor here, that
the local branch, you know, was trying to raise money, they`re volunteers,
and this is something who they see as being generous in his charity towards
the community, you know, if persistently having trouble. But that frankly
isn`t good enough.
She`s absolutely right, there needs to be an investigation. We need to
make sure this can`t happen again.
But in the meantime, you know, we as a country have to get beyond our
fixation just simply on the racism of individuals and actually look at the
racism of institutions.
JEALOUS: We need to be asking ourselves if this guy who employs all these
people are saying this, what are other employers --
HAYES: How many other people are saying things like this that aren`t being
taped and released is the first thing that popped in my mind, particularly
when I thought about owners, the owners of the other NBA teams. Lord knows
what bosses around the country and owners around the country are saying in
private conversations that`s being taped.
Civil and human rights activist, Ben Jealous -- thank you.
JEALOUS: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, more on the reaction to Donald Sterling`s comments.
Former NBA player Etan Thomas will be my guest next. Stick around.
HAYES: Today, comedian Bill Mayer tweeted his reaction to the Donald
Sterling story. Sterling def a racists, but take away his team? Clippers
shouldn`t have played yesterday? Calm down. Being an A-hole is still
legal in America.
We`re going to talk more about that when Bill Maher joins me here tomorrow
night. You don`t want to miss it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you make a message as a member of that Clipper team
or what is the reaction? What happens when you take the floor the next
O`NEAL: Well, you know, you still have to go out and do your job. Donald
Sterling is one man and I agree with Chuck, he owns the team, but there`s a
lot more at stake.
JOHNSON: What we have to understand is all these young men need their
jobs, though, right? And they need to take care of themselves and their
families. So, we can`t blame Doc Rivers or the players. They have to do
their job to take care of their families and play the game that they love.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: Despite what was said on TNT and ESPN over the weekend, playing the
game and doing their jobs wasn`t necessarily a foregone conclusion for the
Clippers before yesterday. There was a question of whether they should
have boycotted the game, refused to take the court. It was something the
Clippers reportedly did consider.
Ultimately, though, they took the floor after a silent protest. They
turned their practice jerseys inside out as a symbolic gesture that seemed
to discard their public identity as members of Donald Sterling`s Clippers,
and just a few moments ago, the Miami Heat did the same thing, which seems
to drive home the point that isn`t just a Clippers problem.
But like the Heat tonight, once Sunday`s game started, the Clippers put
their team`s game jerseys on and more or less that was that. Now, under
the circumstances there was no obvious choice for what the Clippers shove
have done before yesterday`s game. I imagine they would have been
criticized no matter what they did.
But now, there`s a report the Clippers are considering making a stronger
statement during tomorrow`s game in Los Angeles. There certainly was no
shortage of criticism for their muted symbolic protest on Sunday.
But then again, everyone has got someone that signs their paycheck, and it
is easy to judge how other people react to their own boss.
So, I want to talk to a former NBA player who had a reputation for being
unafraid to speak up and speak out, even when he was playing.
Joining me now is former NBA player, Etan Thomas. He`s authored of "More
Than An Athlete: Poems by Etan Thomas."
Etan, what was your reaction to the symbolic gesture during warm-ups the
Clippers did on Sunday?
ETAN THOMAS, FORMER NBA PLAYER: Well, I understood. You know, they made
it very clear that they were going to give Adam Silver, the new
commissioner, his time to do his due process. And Kevin Johnson, who is
now speaking for the players association, said he`s going to give him by
the start of game five. That`s tomorrow.
And everybody I know wanted them to have a bigger statement, but they`re
working with the commissioner to see exactly what he is going to come down
with as a punishment. And, you know, the commissioner said that he was
just as appalled by this as everybody else was, but there needs to be
something else in place, just because the way that the players are held to
a certain standard.
So you can be suspended from a team and the only thing they have to give,
the only estimation they have to give is conduct detrimental to the team.
Well, there has to be the same standard to the rest of the employees of the
NBA, for the GM, for the presidents, for the CEOs like Donald Sterling, and
they have to be held for conduct detrimental to the NBA, because that`s
what his statements actually have done, have been detrimental to the entire
NBA. To the image of the NBA and now economically, as you see different
companies pulling out of sponsorship by the truckloads.
And so what he`s doing is really hurting the entire league as a whole, so
there needs to be something in place. There needs to be checks and
balances but they`re waiting to see what commissioner Adam Silver is going
to do tomorrow. So, really, the ball is really in his court.
HAYES: It`s interesting you`re putting this on the commissioner, you`re
putting this on the fellow owners as opposed to the players. I had a
somewhat similar reaction because I felt like I heard people condemning the
players for not standing up or speaking out more strongly.
My instinct was in some ways that it was a little strange to put it on
them. At the same time, if there was ever a moment that you could have
done something dramatic and not had anyone question it, if they had
boycotted or something like that, that would have been the time, right?
THOMAS: Well, yes, but you have to let the system play itself out. I mean
they`re giving everything time. Adam silver said to just give him a little
time to do the due process. He`s going to do whatever he needs to do and
then make an announcement. Well, the announcement comes tomorrow, so just
After he does his announcement tomorrow, if it`s a little bit slap on the
wrist, then it`s time for more drastic things.
But -- and there`s precedent for Adam Silver. There`s what happened in
Cincinnati in `99 with Marge Schott and they removed her, made her give up
her -- sell her interests in the Cincinnati Reds after her racist comments.
Now, it`s a little bit tough right now because we know what Donald Sterling
originally paid for when he bought the Clippers and what it`s worth now.
He paid, what, $15 million, maybe $17 million and now it`s half a billion
that he would net so that`s not really a punishment, you know?
I mean, that`s not really a punishment. So, what needs to happen is he
needs to really feel it in his pocket, which is, you know, maybe they could
have it to be open like what the Green Bay Packers did and sell it to the
public. Or just remove him.
You know what they should do is have him give him back what he originally
purchased it for and send him on his way.
HAYES: Buy the team for $17 million.
THOMAS: That`s what they should do. I don`t know if they`re going to, but
that`s what they should.
HAYES: I should read the official statement from Clippers head coach Doc
Rivers who`s out with a lengthy statement tonight, saying, "I`d like to
reiterate how disappointed I am in the comments of Donald Sterling. I had
a meeting with members of our organization and we want to make the right
decision here. We`re doing our very best and try to do that. We know fans
are in a dilemma as well. We want them to cheer for their players and
their team, but will always be their players and their team. From the fans
that I have heard from, that`s how they feel."
I keep coming back, "This is my team, these are my players I`m cheering
for, that`s not going to change. I hope Staples Center is packed. People
are cheering for the players. Players are now in the middle of it and they
have to deal with it."
I keep coming back to that line in the Sterling tape, I think that`s pretty
profound, not just about basketball, but actually the relationship between
employers and employees, between labor and capital, workers and bosses,
where he says, who makes the game? Do they make the game or do I make the
And the fact of the matter is, what is the answer to that question?
Because that`s kind of a profound question. When you were playing, did you
feel like you made the game, Etan Thomas, in a tremendously talented
athlete in the top one-hundredth of 1 percent of athletes or did you feel
like the owner made the game?
THOMAS: Well, this is the problem, that he thinks that he`s bigger than he
is and he`s more important than he is. They don`t come there to see him,
they come to see Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and DeAndre
Jordan. That`s who they come to see.
Not to see him sitting in his row with his girlfriend. That`s not what
they pay their money to come see.
But he is a representative of a much bigger problem. A lot of people are
saying, why so much making -- who cares if he is a racist? But when you`re
in a position of power like he is, when you`re able to inflict that racism
like he did in the discrimination lawsuit, that was the biggest
discrimination settlement in L.A. history, belongs to him to the tune of
I mean, when you have a history of racism, you shouldn`t be given in
another position where you can assert that racism again. When child sex
offenders move into a new neighborhood, everybody is known that they are
child sex offenders and they have to register so they can`t be in positions
of power and hurt people who hurt children.
I think that racists like Donald Sterling needs -- you know, needs to have
that same provision where they can`t be in positions because it`s a lot
bigger than just him having a problem with black people. No, he`s in a
position to be able to hurt people.
HAYES: Yes, I`m sort of imagining --
THOMAS: That there`s no place in the NBA for that.
HAYES: I`m imagining a kind of like drive down -- road in Beverly Hills
ringing door bells announcing that he is a racist. Hi, I`m Donald
Sterling, I`m moving into the neighborhood and I`m a racist.
Former player --
THOMAS: You can look in court documents and see that.
HAYES: No, no, absolutely -- I mean, again, those are complaints in a
lawsuit but, yes, former NBA player Etan Thomas, always, always wonderful
to have you. Thank you.
THOMAS: Thanks for having me.
HAYES: All right. Coming up, Vice News reporter Simon Ostrovsky was
released last week after being beaten and held by pro-Russian militants in
Ukraine. He joins me to talk about why he wants to go back there, ahead.
HAYES: If you Google the words "Obamacare microchip," prepare to fall down
a bizarre, fear-mongering, anti-government YouTube vortex, if like me you
have a perverse fascination with conspiracy theories. Like the mythic
death panels, this is one of those paranoid rumors that zings around from
inbox to inbox, and this prompted unintentionally hilarious debunking
responses from serious media outlets that have to patiently explain, quote,
"that was never true" and the Affordable Care Act doesn`t require micro-
chipping and it`s all very funny -- except for this little anecdote from
"The New York Times." It illustrates the real life consequences of this
Quote: "The political polarization complicates our efforts to enroll people
and to educate people about the Affordable Care Act. There`s no question,"
said Perry Bryant, head of the advocacy group West Virginians for
Affordable Health Care. "Literally, people thought there would be chips
embedded in their bodies if they signed up for Obamacare."
Those are the human consequences of the ceaseless propaganda war demonizing
Obamacare. It doesn`t just make fodder for goofy Internet hijinks. It`s
standing in the way of real, tangible improvements in people`s lives, real
reduction in misery.
The fear-mongering about the Affordable Care Act is actually stopping
people from signing up, like those folks in West Virginia, or this guy,
Dean Angstadt, who told his story to "The Philadelphia Inquirer." He was
so resistant to the thought of submitting to the tyrannical Obamacare
pushed by a party he despises that he refused to sign up, even though he
needed to have a heart valve replaced.
Finally, his friend basically staged an intervention, helping him apply and
choose a plan, which then enabled him to have life-saving surgery. And
without that, Angstadt says -- quote -- "I probably would have ended up
falling over dead."
It is not hyperbole to say Obamacare fear-mongering almost took his guy`s
life. Fortunately, he had a friend who knew better and helped him enroll
by the deadline.
But as sure as I`m sitting here talking to you, there are people in this
country who are lied to about this law, who believe those lies and who are
going to pay for it with their own health. Paranoia is its own kind of
HAYES: Simon Ostrovsky is someone we have relied on to get firsthand
accounts of what is going on in Ukraine. And he`s done some fantastic
reporting from that country, in particular from Slavyansk, the dangerous
epicenter of what may be a slow-motion Russian takeover Eastern Ukraine.
Last Monday, Simon was abducted by armed pro-Russian militants. Just hours
before his abduction, Simon was interviewing a man who "The New York Times"
has said was a Russian special forces soldier, evidence that Russian
special forces are indeed, as long suspected, leading the armed takeover in
Simon asked the bearded man if he was the Russian special forces officer
identified in "The New York Times."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Of course it`s not me. I was in a
completely different place at the time.
SIMON OSTROVSKY, VICE NEWS (through translator): Where were you in 2008
during the war in Georgia?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I was not far from there.
OSTROVSKY: I have just seen my first Russian passport on an armed man here
in Eastern Ukraine. He`s a Kazakh from the Kuban region of Russia. "The
New York Times" showed a picture of a man who looks like him from Georgia
in 2008 who was part of the Russian special forces, claiming that he was
that man, but it seems that he`s somebody else. But he is actually from
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Again, about one hour after filming that report in which Simon was
working to uncover the official secret most zealously guarded in that
fraught region, Russian involvement in Eastern Ukraine, this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSTROVSKY: When we got to the final checkpoint, which was literally maybe
300, 400 yards away from our hotel, a man pulled a piece of paper out of
his pocket with my face on it, shined a light on my face, showed it to his
friends. His face lit up, and he`s like, I got him, I got him, this is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That moment, that terrifying moment, was the beginning of a three-
And joining me now here in studio, it`s my great pleasure to welcome safe
and sound VICE News reporter Simon Ostrovsky.
Simon, it`s wonderful to meet you in person. I feel like I know you, I
have this connection to you. We were very upset about your abduction. So
I`m so glad you`re here safe and sound.
OSTROVSKY: It`s good to be back in New York.
And I want to say thanks for being such a strong advocate for me while I
was being held there, because I know now, since I have come out, that you
have been on your show a couple of times mentioning me. And I really
HAYES: Well, I just happen to know that the people`s mayor of Slavyansk is
a huge MSNBC fan. And I just figured really delivering those direct-to-
camera addresses would --
OSTROVSKY: I think that`s what did it.
HAYES: -- get this all wrapped up.
HAYES: So, who is at that check -- so, take me through this. You`re at
the checkpoint. "I have got him. I have got him." Who`s at the
checkpoint? Who`s manning that checkpoint? What is that checkpoint? And
why do they have your picture?
OSTROVSKY: My picture had been circulating for about a week-and-a-half
before on the Internet on Russian social networks with a message saying
that I was a liar working for the Kiev authorities, paid propagandist.
And so I think somebody on the Internet was trying to get it out there that
I was criticizing the pro-Russia stance in Eastern Ukraine. The people at
the checkpoint, they`re locals mostly, wearing camouflage with guns. One
of them had a machete. Another guy had a shotgun. A couple of them had
At the checkpoints, it`s mostly youngsters, but it`s at the security
headquarters, where they took me later, where the really scary guys came
HAYES: And what happened there?
OSTROVSKY: I was led to the security headquarters. They blindfolded me,
tied my hands behind my back, led me down into a cellar.
And two or three guys beat me up for the next sort of 10 minutes, beating
me like on my torso, clapping me on the head with their hands, and telling
me that they would shoot me, threatening to kill me, essentially, and
telling me that, if I died, nobody would ever find my body or remember me.
HAYES: And was this to terrify you? Was this to try to get you to confess
to the fact you were a spy? What do you think they were trying to do?
OSTROVSKY: At that point in time, I think they were trying to scare me,
because they knew that they were going to hold me, and so they wanted me to
And by intimidating me very early on, you know, the threat of more physical
violence would mean that I would cooperate with whatever they wanted me to
do. But I think the whole greater purpose of what they did was to
intimidate me, and other journalists more generally, from criticizing the
HAYES: So, who are the -- this is the thing. When we were following the
story, it`s like, who the heck is the people`s mayor of Slavyansk?
Here. I want to play some tape of him taking questions about your
abduction. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Who is this guy? Who are these people?
OSTROVSKY: As far as I know, he`s a local businessman from Slavyansk who
has a soap factory that he used to run. And he somehow just rose to the
top in this chaos.
And whether he was chosen by whatever forces are at play here or whether he
just set himself up as the boss of the town, I don`t know. But until a few
weeks ago, nobody knew his name.
HAYES: And he is now effectively running the town with thugs that are
abducting a journalist and beating him up.
OSTROVSKY: Yes, he`s calling himself the people`s mayor. Nobody actually
voted for him. But he`s got gangs of armed men hanging Russian flags on
top of Ukrainian buildings, manning checkpoints, abducting people and
holding hostages. He`s held over a dozen hostages so far.
HAYES: What is his name?
OSTROVSKY: His name is Ponomarev.
The big question that looms all over, and I think what has been so creepy
and disconcerting about the way this played out, this is the kind of
crypto-nature, it seems, of what`s happening. In Crimea, it was troops at
the airport one day with no flag on their uniform, and all of a sudden
these folks are showing up with guns and there`s checkpoints.
And there`s questions of, is this -- are these Russians? Is this Russian
intelligence service and special forces? Having been on the ground, what
is your answer to that $64,000 question?
OSTROVSKY: It`s actually a lot more frightening, what`s happening in
Eastern Ukraine now, compared to what happened in Crimea, because it was
regular Russian forces -- that`s pretty much confirmed -- that were
operating in Crimea.
They may not have been wearing flags, but they had trucks that had Russian
license plates on them and they all of the equipment of the Russian
military, and they behaved like military units, very professionally. In
Eastern Ukraine, what we have is this ragtag army of God knows who. You
don`t know who they`re taking orders from and if they`re taking any orders
And that`s the scariest thing, because they may not be answering to
anybody. I met the bearded man that you showed in the video. He`s a
Russian citizen, a Kazakh.
But, you know, whether he was sent there by Russia or whether he came of
his own accord, that`s an open question. And who are some of these masked
men? Well, until we see their faces and their I.D. documents, we can`t
know for sure. And that just gives a lot of plausible deniability to
Russia. And it means that there`s no one to talk to when these kind of
situations like mine take place.
HAYES: Are you going to go back?
OSTROVSKY: I would very much like to go back, because we would like to
continue covering the story. We have been covering Ukraine since the
protests began in Kiev in the winter. And the story is far from over. And
we need to follow it through so we can see how it plays out.
HAYES: For the love of God, please be careful when you go back. And come
back on my show.
OSTROVSKY: Thanks very much.
HAYES: VICE News reporter Simon Ostrovsky.
There`s new video from Ukraine and more from Simon posted on VICENews.com.
You should definitely check that out.
Don`t go away.
HAYES: Coming up: Congressman Michael Grimm was indicted today on federal
fraud charges. Before that happened, he was famous for a couple of things.
And just a few hours before his indictment leaked, he was making headlines
for a very rare kind of conversion. It turns out I was part of that
conversion. I will explain next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: We`re going to fight tooth and nail
until I am fully exonerated. So let me be perfectly clear. I will not
abandon my post or the wonderful people who entrusted me to represent them.
QUESTION: Congressman, very simply, are you a crook?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not going to address the charges at this time.
He has the presumption of innocence, and it will be handled in a court of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Congressman Michael Grimm was defiant today after surrendering to
FBI agents and being indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly under-
reporting wages and payroll at a New York City restaurant called
Healthalicious that Grimm ran before he entered Congress.
Grimm is also accused of lying under oath when questioned as part of the
ongoing investigation, which began by focusing on his campaign fund-
Before the indictment, of course, Michael Grimm was most famous for this
interaction with reporter Michael Scotto.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SCOTTO, REPORTER: Congressman Michael Grimm does not want to talk
about some of the allegations concerning his campaign finances. We wanted
to get him on camera on that, but he, as you saw, refused to talk about
that -- back to you.
GRIMM: You ever do that to me again, I will throw you off this (EXPLETIVE
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Oddly enough, I have been spending a lot of time with Michael Grimm
over the past year. A team of producers from Showtime`s the "Years of
Living Dangerously" series and I followed Grimm`s response to Hurricane
Sandy, which devastated his district in Staten Island, and also traced his
trajectory on the issue of climate change.
And something amazing happened over the course of our time with him.
Republican Michael Grimm went from being a climate change denialist,
someone who rejected the overwhelming scientific consensus, to coming
And even more remarkable than Michael Grimm`s change of heart on climate
change was the exchange I was able to have with him afterwards, which was,
by far, hands down, the most honest I have ever seen a sitting member of
Congress be about politics while the camera was rolling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Last time you and I spoke, you said the jury was still out on
climate science. Do you still feel that way?
GRIMM: After speaking with Bob Inglis, it made me my own research, and I
looked at some of the stuff that he sent over, my staff looked at, that the
vast majority of respected scientists say that it`s conclusive, the
evidence is clear.
So I don`t think the jury is out.
HAYES: The basic story of, we`re putting carbon in the atmosphere, the
planet`s getting warmer, that`s going to make the sea levels rise, the
basic story to that, you pretty much agree with, right?
GRIMM: Sure. I mean, there`s no question that the oceans have risen,
right? And the climate change part is -- is a real part of it.
The problem that we`re going to have right now -- there`s no oxygen left in
the room in Washington right now for another big debate. That`s the
Between immigration, tax reform --
HAYES: I don`t disagree. But let me ask you
GRIMM: -- it`s just not going to take front stage.
HAYES: But I want to -- there`s a study coming out, because this gets to
precisely to the point.
If you take just the amount of sea level rise and you factor it into what
the Sandy storm surge was, this study says you`ve got about 25 square miles
of flooding that wouldn`t have happened. So my question to you is within
three years from now there`s another one of these storms that takes out
another 7,000 homes. It`s like at what point does this become the
GRIMM: Washington is not real life. You see, you`re talking the substance
and the science.
GRIMM: And my point to you is, irrelevant.
HAYES: Right, right.
GRIMM: Irrelevant. You have to first get them to the table to say, let`s
HAYES: So then what`s your role in getting them to do that? If you told
me there`s too much other stuff going on in Washington right now, we can`t
get Sandy relief, you would say sorry -- excuse me language -- (EXPLETIVE
HAYES: And what I`m saying to you is, the people that live on this island
are going to get -- there`s going to be more storms, and they`re going to
be worse, unless we get our act together.
Can you -- literally, can you sit down with fellow Republicans and say,
look, come to my district; we have water that`s in places it shouldn`t have
GRIMM: Yes, but not while everyone is saying immigration, taxes and
members of Congress don`t want to talk about anything else.
HAYES: And 20 years from now, you and I are going to have a conversation
where we look back -- I really believe this.
And it`s like, what do you -- what do you think about when you think about
that conversation 20 years from now about where you were, where your
personal voice was of leadership?
GRIMM: What I`m telling you is, it`s much bigger than me. I don`t think
that humans in America, Americans, have the will to do it.
HAYES: But that`s a terribly depressing statement.
GRIMM: It may be, but it`s true.
HAYES: But we had the will to settle the frontier. We had the will to
land on the moon.
GRIMM: Do you think my generation or the generation after me has that? I
think you`re living in fantasyland. They don`t. They don`t.
HAYES: I wonder how you are going to look back at yourself as a member of
the United States Congress if history unfolds in the way that I think the
science says it does, and makes these distinctions between the people that
actually had the fortitude to stand up and say the unpopular thing and
those who didn`t.
History judges those people incredibly harshly. It puts them in two
categories. It puts them in the categories of people that met the biggest
challenge of their time and people who didn`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The big takeaway from that exchange is, well, pretty discouraging,
this idea that even people who think we need to do something about climate
change feels there`s just no appetite to do it, that the unfolding disaster
just sits kind of there, hovering over our heads like an eternally
unchecked item on the global to-do list.
Well, there`s a group of people who are doing a pretty amazing job of
refusing to take later for an answer when it comes to climate change.
Actress Daryl Hannah is one of those people. I`m going to talk to her
HAYES: Last week, we witnessed the implosion of one-time right-wing hero
Cliven Bundy. And he was protesting the federal government for trying to
charge him a heavily subsidized fee for letting his cows graze on land he
didn`t own, federal land.
But there was another group of ranchers out protesting last week who got
way, way less attention, but who were attempting something far more
honorable. They were trying to convince the government not to take the
land they actually own away, and allow a big old company to build a
pipeline through it.
The ranchers are part of a group called the Cowboy Indian Alliance, which
gathered on the National Mall to protest against the proposed Keystone XL
pipeline, which would transport tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the
U.S. Gulf Coast.
Last week, the U.S. State Department delayed a decision on whether to
approve the pipeline, likely until after the midterm elections.
Standing with the protesters on the National Mall was actress and
environmental activist Daryl Hannah.
And she joins me now.
It`s great to have you here.
DARYL HANNAH, ACTRESS/ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST: Thank you very much.
HAYES: So I want you to start out by responding to what Congressman Grimm
said in that interview, which is basically, what are you going to do?
There`s lots of issues out there. People talk about this stuff. There`s
no will to tackle this.
HANNAH: Well, there`s no political will because of the Citizens United
decision and the McCutcheon amendment, which means that the government is a
government that is for corporations, instead of for the people, which it`s
supposed to be.
But I think in terms of the public, the public has just been barraged by
disinformation for all these years. And so I completely disagree. I
think, once the public gets informed -- I mean, we see it with the Keystone
issue right now. You see both the conservatives and liberals coming
together and working together to work against this thing, because they
realize that this is a foreign company coming in to take advantage of our
lands, our water, our soils, to get their product to market for private
product, so they can put it on the global market for the highest bidder.
HAYES: I like this distinction between political -- you know, political
will on Capitol Hill and public will.
HANNAH: Well, it`s -- we`re living in a very different type of democracy
than we think that we do, you know?
HANNAH: We are now living in a democracy where it costs a billion dollars
to run for president. That`s ludicrous.
This is no longer the democracy that we all kind of, you know, believe in
and agreed to. It is not -- it is no longer a government for the people by
the people. It is now for the corporation by the corporation. And we need
to take our power back, our renewable power back.
HAYES: There was this -- and the event in Washington, this kind of Cowboy
Indian Alliance, you have ranchers there, folks who are opposing it who own
farmland in Nebraska along with the aquifer there. You have got First
Nations stretching up into Canada, with their ancestral land that is being
HANNAH: Treaties, sovereign land.
HAYES: What was the scene like there?
HANNAH: It was -- it was actually -- it was beautiful. It was very
There was almost a solemn nature to it, because I think because of the
ranchers and farmers who have been affected. There is a farmer today, this
very day, who is being dragged into court by this foreign company,
TransCanada, in order to take his land through eminent domain on a project
that hasn`t even been approved.
HANNAH: It`s insane. Right? So, they`re very profoundly and emotionally
And then you have First Nations communities up in Canada who are
experiencing the ramifications of the tar sands exploitation and having
cancer rates at 400 times their historical rate. And you have the Native
American communities who have already had their water compromised by past
uranium mills and mines, and now are looking at, you know, drought-ridden
lands that are also, you know, endangering their precious and very
dwindling water that they have left.
And so these are -- this is -- the demonstrations were almost like a
prayer, rather than like a sort of shouting type of an event. It was quite
HAYES: To people that say, you guys, you activists are making too much of
this, there`s all sorts of ways, we have got to have a global solution,
carbon tax, this one pipeline won`t make or break things, what do you say
HANNAH: Well, we have moved to -- towards extreme extraction methods,
right, deep-water drilling, mountaintop removal, fracking, tar sands.
There`s even one permitted in Utah now, you know?
And if this pipeline goes through, they`re going to expand the tar sands
HANNAH: So it will be the size of the state of Florida. We`re talking a
strip mine the size of the state of Florida. They use not only
carcinogenic chemicals, but natural gas, which also leaks tons of methane,
which is a much more potent greenhouse gas.
There`s so many elements that make this pipeline a --
HAYES: This key kind of turning point, after which --
HANNAH: Yes, a key turning point to say, we need to switch our
infrastructure to renewable energy and -- and start solving the climate
crisis with a shift in agriculture and energy practices.
HAYES: Activist/environmental activist Daryl Hannah, thank you.
That is ALL IN for this evening.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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